After a January PR set-back, the United States Marine Corp again was on the defense in minimizing damage. This time, it's a 2010 photo where marines posed in front of a flag marked with a logo associated with World War II Nazis.
"If you look at any book on the Nazi period, this is the dreaded symbol of the SS, and to have a Marine Corps unit adopt it and put it beside the American flag when 200,000 Americans died to free the world of that dreaded symbol is just beyond the pale”, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said to The Sun.
The Nazi SS unit was the right arm of Adolf Hitler. During the Nuremberg war crimes trial, it was deemed a criminal organization, which implemented heinous killings of millions of Jews, Gypsies and other “undesirables” by the Nazi regime.
On Friday, Commandant James Amos, a 42 year veteran of the Marine Corp in a statement said, “I want to be clear that the Marine Corps unequivocally does not condone the use of any such symbols to represent our units or Marines”.
Amos continued, “On behalf of the Marine Corps and all Marines, I apologize to all offended by this regrettable incident.”
In a report by RT, Mikey Weinstein, founder of MRFF (The Military Religious Freedom Foundation) in Washington D.C. wanted high level consequences and demanded that, “Heads need to roll and this [incident] needs to be fully investigated.”
However, as reported by the Associated Press, the defenders of the Marines asserted that “the Marines believed the “SS” symbol was meant to represent sniper scouts and never intended to be associated with a racist organization”, said Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton (California), where the Marines were based.
The marines associated with the photo are part of the Scout Sniper, a secondary Military Occupational Specialty group within the U.S. Marine Corp, Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion out of Camp Pendalton, Calif. A Scout Sniper is described as “a marine highly skilled in field craft and marksmanship who delivers long range precision fire on selected targets from concealed positions in support of combat operations”.
"I don't believe that the Marines involved would have ever used any type of symbol associated the Nazi Germany military criminal organization that committed mass atrocities in WWII," Chapin said. "It's not what who we are as Marines."
In the photo taken in Afghanistan, members of the Marine Corps are seen posing with guns in front of a U.S. flag and similarly sized, flag with the controversial “SS” logo letters, prominently displayed, in the infamous Nazi SS lightning bolt style.
The Marines have been using the same “SS” lightning bold style logo for years. There have been evidence of use as far as 2004, where a photo shows a Marine posing with a sniper rifle detailed with the exact “SS” logo.
Another Camp Pendleton spokesman, Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva told the Associated Press that “he did not know where the flag came from but it was likely the property of one of the Marines in the photograph."
Oliva added, “The photograph appeared on the blog for a military weapons company called Knight’s Armament in Titusville, Fla." Knight’s Armament is an after-market firearms enhancement and conversion parts manufacturer, owned by C. Reed Knight.
Knight’s Armament, as of Friday, hadn’t provided any statements to multiple news organizations about the controversy.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, immediately on Friday, told the Marine Corps to “re-investigate and take appropriate action” against the Marine snipers whom participated in the 2010 photograph.
Pentagon press secretary George Little expressed similarly, saying “that racist and anti-Semitic symbols have no place alongside U.S. service members.”
In a statement by former Vietnam Marine veteran captain and National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Allen Falk told Army Times, “We believe that these young men likely did not understand the significance of the symbol.”
However, he emphasized that his organization see the Marine Corps “to increase education on American history” for its recruits to prevent future misunderstandings.